FOR Charmaine Daniels, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Digicel Foundation, being able to impact people's lives in a meaningful way is a priceless opportunity. And with dedicated team members, Daniels says she has all the support she needs in ensuring that the goals of the foundation are achieved successfully.
“I love my team. I will tell you that I have the best team in the world. My team members are very passionate about the work of the foundation even though it can be overwhelming sometimes, but they remain very focused and are always willing to go above and beyond. I believe that in the word team, there is no 'I', so by myself I wouldn't be able to do all the work that the foundation has been able to do,” she told All Woman.
The foundation aims to mobilise and distribute resources to communities across the island to improve education at the early childhood and primary school levels, increase access and opportunities for people with special needs, and stimulate sustainable entrepreneurial activity.
It's a role Daniels could easily immerse herself into, having been born to a missionary family. This St Thomas native, who lives in Kingston, was brought up on the tenets of selflessness and being her brother's keeper.
After receiving her Bachelor of Applied Science in Business Administration from the University of Florida, she began her professional career working for a non-government organisation that offered microfinancing loans to budding entrepreneurs.
In 1995, she decided to make her way into the corporate world of human resources. She worked for three years as the human resource administrator for Coca-Cola Jamaica before transitioning to sales and retail at Anbell Agencies — a provider for Digicel Jamaica — in 2000, then transitioning to the Digicel Group retail team in 2006.
Despite the demands of her schedule, Daniels knew as soon as she joined the Digicel team that she wanted be involved with the Digicel Foundation. She was inspired by the work of foundation patron Denis O'Brien, who believes that as the company grows, so too must the communities that Digicel serves. Daniels was appointed to the Digicel Foundation board of directors in 2017, and served as vice chair prior to her appointment as CEO.
As CEO, she said her main role is developing strategies to achieve the annual objectives of the foundation.
But with the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic last March, she said she and her team had to adjust their original plan.
“When the novel coronavirus pandemic started, we would have had a solid strategic plan that did not include it [COVID-19]. What that meant as a foundation, was that we had to pivot what our response to the pandemic would be and add what we were already working with. Operation S.A.F.E Mode was what we came up with,” she said.
According to Daniels, Operation S.A.F.E Mode is a comprehensive programme which focuses on Sanitising, Advocating, Feeding and Enabling in the fight against the pandemic.
“It really encapsulated our COVID-19 response. It started in March and it is still going. We have done a lot around COVID-19 and I think it has really dominated my time in the foundation,” she said.
Admitting that there are days that she felt like giving up, Daniels said, “Yes, I've had those days, especially when I look at where we have reached with the number of COVID-19 cases now and when we look at all the work we have to do. It makes me ask myself, “When did I not do what I was supposed to? Was there more that I could have done? The work of the foundation is so fulfilling and I just thank God that I have the opportunity to do it.”
Even though the pandemic has had a significant impact on the work of the foundation, Daniels said she has learnt a valuable skill which she will maintain as she continues her humanitarian journey.
“I think flexibility is one of thing I've learnt. If you are a part of a foundation looking to serve the needs of your country, at any given time you have to be able to assess the main needs of your country and the community you are trying to serve and make sure you are flexible enough to meet those needs,” she said.
In addition to volunteering with the Digicel Foundation, Daniels is an active member of the Transformed Life Church. She has spearheaded several activities for the church and serves as lead usher, a life group leaders coach and a discipleship leader.
Known for her charisma and willingness to go the extra mile, Daniels also played a pivotal role in several executions during her time at Digicel. She was an ambassador of the Digicel Dynamo programme, elected Most Valuable Player on the Digicel team in 2009, received an I Am Digicel Award for Digicel's 2009 roll out project, and served on the Digicel Pension Fund Board of Trustees.
A mom of two, Daniels has also been an involved parent to David, who is on track to graduate from Howard University in spring 2022, and Christina, who is at the Rochester Institute of Technology.